That was the big question after the Frenchman overturned Yamaha’s uncompetitive start to the season with a stunning Portuguese performance.

Quartararo disappeared into the distance after taking the lead from Suzuki’s Joan Mir in a race that saw the next-best M1, of Andrea Dovizioso, a massive 29-seconds behind in eleventh.

Although Quartararo stood on the podium at a soaking Mandalika earlier this year, Portimao marked Yamaha’s only dry top-six this season and his first victory since Silverstone last August.

Pushing to the limit at every event, Quartararo said the secret to his Portimao success had been the chance to mask the M1’s top speed deficit.

“I never said that the bike was not working,” Quartararo explained. “But it’s true that we are missing a lot of top speed.

“This is a track that I like and from my side there was a lot of grip. I was feeling not bad with top speed because in the last corner I was exiting super-fast and managed not to get a lot of wheelie.

“I was super strong there. I think the key point for me was the last sector. But nothing really changed, let’s say. I rode like the previous races. I didn’t make something new or strange.

“But it’s true that I impressed myself quite a lot to make almost all the race in the 1m ‘39s. If I had a pressure from someone behind, for sure I could manage ‘39 all the race.”

Fabio Quartararo: ‘something special, really emotional’

Visibly emotional on the Portimao podium, Quartararo admitted: “It’s been a long time since I achieved a victory and we’ve been through tough times this year.

“When you’ve won the championship, you always want to fight for the championship again. So before the race in Austin, it was tough to know that you will not fight for the victory.

“But I said, ‘look, whatever the position is, I will give my 100%’. This is what I did and I finished P7.

“We have not made a massive improvement on the bike [this year]. We know what is going on, so of course it’s tough for me to see the team applauding me for P7.

“In my mind P7 is not good, but I made my best and I know that in 2019 or ’20 when I was going down in a race, I kept going down. But this year and last year I always try to fight back to at least finish on P7, P8, or P9 like if it was for the podium.

“I think this is where I made a massive change. During last year in Jerez when I had the arm pump I finished 13th, and 13th is still three points. Like the three races this year where we made 9th in Qatar, 8th in Argentina, 7th in Austin and now we are in the lead of the championship.

“So, I think those kinds of races where you are disappointed, at the end of the year it pays off. I will fight the same if it’s P1, P5, or P10 but to fight for the victory again today was something special, really emotional.”

‘Not true’ that we miss rear grip

During the Portimao weekend, which was blighted by wet conditions until qualifying, Quartararo and Dovizioso expressed contrasting opinions on the main weakness of the current M1.

While Quartararo has been pleading for more top speed since last year, a request that is yet to be acted upon, Dovizioso - who has recent experience of the Ducati and Aprilia - feels the other Yamaha riders would benefit more from widening the narrow window of rear grip.

“It’s quite clear that many riders, let’s say, think that we miss rear grip. It’s not true,” Quartararo said.

“We can see in the exit of the last corner, I would never overtake Johann [Zarco] if I didn’t have grip. Of course, if you ask all the riders in the grid what they want, it’s rear grip because we go faster.

“What is missing is the top speed, but our bike is fantastic. If I need to name something else to improve apart from top speed today, I don't know what it would be because we have a lot of turning, and braking stability was good.

“So, for me, the bike is working super good. But it’s true that when you have like in Argentina a long straight and you need to make kind of ‘V’ shaped corners, you are lost because you can’t make corner speed. You can make round turns.

“This is why we are struggling so much and you use much more the tyres. Then you think it’s the rear grip, but basically it comes all from the top speed.”

Assurances on how Yamaha plan to address the top speed deficit are sure to be central to Quartararo’s 2023 contract discussions.

Asked if the Portimao victory would make deciding his future easier, the #20 replied: “No.”

While Quartararo is now tied on points with Alex Rins for the world championship lead head to Jerez this weekend, the next best Yamaha of Morbidelli is 52-points behind in 15th.